If you are someone that suffers from social phobia, you already know how difficult it is to overcome it. You desperately want to connect with people, make new friends and have normal social interactions, but the intense fear and anxiety of being around people, fear of being judged and insidious negative thought patterns, just never seem to end.
And the real kicker with anxiety disorders is this – put trying to push through the anxiety, to force it out of the way, or stuff it down into your subconscious doesn’t work. It often makes it worse. I had tried for years to get over my social anxiety this way. It wasn’t until that I ran into cognitive-behavior therapy that I started to make real progress with dissolving my social anxiety, and stopping it from controlling my life.

So let’s go over some typical symptoms, behaviors that occur with someone who has social phobia, and what someone should do to treat social phobia/anxiety.

Automatic Negative Thoughts

Automatic negative thoughts run like a tape in the head of someone with social anxiety disorder. They tend to believe that people are constantly judging them, and even watching them. People with social phobia Sufferers of social anxiety also are perfectionists always trying to say or do the right thing. They are often people pleasers and want everyone to like them. I often used to think whenever I heard laughter nearby, that it was always me they are laughing at.

Anti-Social Behavior

Many folks with SAD have very few friends, and do whatever they can to minimize social interaction. They’ll avoid going out in public at all costs, even afraid to go to the grocery store to run an errand. Group meetings at work can make them nervous, or interacting with power figures like bosses or other people in authority. Going to parties or bars can be a nightmare for someone with social anxiety, especially if it is crowded. Eating in restaurants can be problematic, as they might think people are watching them and judging how they eat. The list of specific situations is numerous, and these are just a few that I’ve experienced or heard about. Freezing up, not being able to speak during conversation is a very common behavior as well. Oftentimes socially phobic people will also just leave the situation if it gets too intense. This is the classic “fight or flight” response generated in the amygdala, the emotional center of the problem.


People with social anxiety are extremely self conscious and self absorbed, it is all about them. The claim is often made that they don’t want to upset other people or hurt other people’s feelings, which is true often. But this really stems from the socially anxious person not being to handle a possible negative reaction from another person. This constant self-absorption keeps a social phobic in a repetitive loop of anxiety, of which there seems to be no way out.

How Does Someone Get Social Anxiety?

Research shows that people with social phobia tend to come from a genetic history of anxiety. However the “social” component comes from an already anxious predisposition combined with some traumatic, embarrassing social experiences. When the high emotion of an embarrassing social situation happens to a person, the neural networks begin to set into place for social anxiety.

Socially phobic people also tend to be introverted, although this isn’t always the case. A common misconception is that many people equate being extroverted with being social, but this isn’t the case. Introversion or extroversion is simply the scale of how someone recharges their energy, either alone or around people. Introversion/extroversion does not actually equal how social someone is. Shy vs. social is a different scale. Many introverts are often social, or can learn to be social. I am a good example of the second case.

What Are The Treatment Possibilities?

There’s medication and therapy available to treat social anxiety. Benzodiapenes like Xanax, Valium and Klonopin are only for short term anxiety relief, and highly addictive. These are generally not recommended for long-term treatment of social phobia. SSRIs like Paxil, Lexapro and Zoloft are often prescribed and some have stated they’ve had success with them. However, the efficacy of whether or not social anxiety remains or returns seems to have little evidence at this point.

The problem that can arise with medication is that it does not teach someone how to effectively handle their negative thoughts and feelings that generate social anxiety. This is why cognitive therapies like Acceptance & Commitment Therapy or Dialectal Behavior Therapy are so powerful. They aim at teaching an individual the skills to navigate and successfully handle the thoughts and beliefs that are at the root of their social anxiety. Some think that the most powerful combination may be both therapy and drugs, although many have just used therapy to overcome social phobia.

Author's Bio: 

David Hamilton is a former sufferer of social anxiety disorder, and is a graduate of the Newfield Network's ontological coaching program.  David uses his experience with overcoming social anxiety and his personal coaching skills to help others get control of their lives again from social phobia.  He regularly blogs about how to handle social anxiety at his site Social Expression and has many free resources available there for social anxiety sufferers.